A new concept in the treatment of eating disorders, most specifically anorexia, in adults is a five day intensive program tested at a few medical centers in the country. Initial data are promising, and the advent of new treatment options are very welcome to clinicians.
The core modalities of treatment are similar to what is used in most clinical settings. The combination of education, cognitive tools, group sessions, family meetings and nutrition counseling comprise the large majority of the treatment.
What is unusual about the program is that both patients and their closest family members attend the entire program. Almost all residential programs have family sessions and include families in support groups or even for a full day, but no program has ever included families the entire time. The Maudsley method incorporates a very strong parental role but only to treat adolescents and not as support but as the leaders of the recovery effort.
When families are fully included in treatment, the message about recovery is very different. It's also reflective of much of what I have written in this blog. Family and friend support is critical for recovery. When people try to recover alone, they remain trapped in their own minds, in a world historically dominated by the eating disorder thoughts. Close, open, loving relationships can serve as a competing force to the eating disorder and allow the person to see how those relationships can be much stronger and more fulfilling than the eating disorder.
Often what makes open relationships so hard is that loved ones have a lot of trouble grasping what support means for someone in recovery. A five day program intended to educate family in how to provide support can be of great benefit.
It's unclear how successful this fledgling program will be, but the more important message is how necessary support from loved ones is for recovery. Any successful recovery needs to utilize that support, however it appears in someone's life, to open the door for a life without the eating disorder.